Foldable devices have been making waves in the tech industry for some time now. At the recent MWC 2023 event, Chinese players such as OPPO, Honor, Lenovo, and Tecno Mobile unveiled their latest foldable device technologies. The US Big Tech companies are also gearing up to enter this segment, heralding a showdown with Samsung, which is enjoying an uncontested early lead in this space, observes GlobalData.
Anisha Bhatia, Senior Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The foldable device activity in Barcelona was particularly visible with announcements ranging from high-end flagship folding phones to more affordable ones to concept displays.”
OPPO showcased two devices – the OPPO Find N2, which folds like a book, and the OPPO Find N2 Flip, a folding clamshell. Honor showcased another book-style foldable Honor Magic Vs. Samsung’s only foldable rival in the US market, Lenovo, was also present at MWC23, with not one but two foldable concepts – a smartphone and a laptop.
Tecno Mobile, a smaller Chinese OEM specializing in budget phones, announced the Tecno Phantom V Fold at MWC 2023, a high-end folding device with some premium features.
Bhatia continues: “Phones with folding or rollable displays will, and do, attract consumer attention because they stand out in a sea of black-box type phones. Samsung has considerably improved on its folding mechanism and hinge over the years, but other OEMs are still in their first iterative stages of this form factor and the experience on their folding phones may leave much to be desired.
“These phones provide the benefit of a bigger screen in a smaller form factor but the robustness of the display and folding mechanism along with a high sticker price remain a constraint in rapid consumer adoption. A price drop, likely to under $750, which is the lower threshold of the premium tier in smartphones, and variety of reasonably priced repair options for the display and hinge, are needed to entice customers to embrace this format.”
Interest in foldables is not limited to Asian OEMs. The US Big Tech is expected to spread its reach into this segment. Apple, so far absent from the foldable front, is readying a foldable tablet for 2024, a hybrid device that doubles as a phone. Google’s Pixel Fold will land on US and European shores in 2023 and Microsoft is expected to move away from its Surface Duo devices towards a folding tablet that functions as a phone.
Bhatia concludes: “OEMs have been researching and developing folding devices for more than a decade. Samsung has shown them that folding devices can be targeted to a mainstream audience and with resounding success. The foldable activity at MWC has set the stage for a foldable showdown with Samsung.”